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PRESS RELEASE | Study Sheds Light on Rx Opioid Disposal Habits: The Importance of Drug Take Back Day

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

October 1, 2023
Philadelphia, PA

A study co-authored by surgeons in Philadelphia found that most patients do not store

their prescription opioids in a locked location, dispose of unused prescription opioids, and, if they do decide to dispose of unused prescription opioids, prefer to dispose of them at a pharmacy if possible.


The findings, emphasizing the importance of safe drug disposal, are timely as the next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day approaches on October 28, 2023.



Co-authored by Dr. Asif Ilyas, President of the Rothman Opioid Foundation, a Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University, and an Associate Dean of Clinical Research at the Drexel University College of Medical, alongside colleagues from the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute and the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, the study titled "How Patients Dispose of Unused Prescription Opioids: A Survey of over 300 Postoperative Patients" reveals surprising trends on how postoperative patients handle unused prescription opioids.



Key Findings from the Study Include:

  • A striking 94% of patients with opioid prescriptions reported having leftover opioids post-surgery.

  • Of those with unused opioids, 68% claimed to dispose of them, revealing a need for improved disposal mechanisms.

  • The majority of patients (86%) stored their opioids in unlocked locations, pointing to potential risks of diversion.

  • Local pharmacies are the preferred disposal location, with 77.4% of respondents indicating this preference.

  • Gender also played a role in disposal practices. Compared to their male counterparts, females were more likely to dispose of opioids and view opioid misuse as a pressing societal issue. This finding may indicate a need for gender-specific interventions in addressing opioid misuse.



With these insights, the significance of the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day cannot be overstated. An event designed to promote safe drug disposal mirrors the DEA's dedication to ensuring public health and safety.



“The prevalence of unused prescription opioids underscores the potential for diversion, misuse, and addiction. As the study suggests, there is a clear need for robust prescriber-to-pharmacy collaboration to foster safe opioid disposal practices, ensuring that unused medications are safely out of homes,” says Ilyas. The data also highlights a broader issue: the need for continual patient education on proper opioid disposal, especially following surgeries. The study's findings suggest that efforts to improve pharmacy-

based interventions and education by surgeons and pharmacists are paramount to preventing misuse or diversion. The study was published in the August 14, 2022 issue of Cureus, and is found here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9481200/



“As National Prescription Drug Take Back Day nears, it serves as a potent reminder: the battle against opioid misuse isn't just about preventing over-prescribing but also ensuring that leftover medications are safely and appropriately disposed of,” says Ilyas.

About the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute Foundation for Opioid Research and Education.


The Rothman Orthopaedic Institute Foundation for Opioid Research & Education is a non-profit 501c3 organization dedicated to raising awareness of the risks and benefits of opioids, educating physicians and policymakers on safe opioid use, and supporting research and education aimed to advance innovative pain management strategies that can decrease opioid use. The Rothman Orthopaedic Institute Opioid Foundation supports and advances the highest quality research on opioids and alternative pain modalities to yield findings that can better inform patients, physicians, and the greater healthcare community in the most evidenced-based pain management strategies.



Opioid Disposal Press Release
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